A few years ago, I went on a trip to India with a few of my classmates from business school, including a friend from Bangalore. We were so fortunate to travel through India with a local - especially a well-connected and most gracious local. And it was just madness. Complete, blissful madness.
The street food!
The other food!
And. We saw a tiger.
This is not a zoom lens.
It was a total sensory overload of sights, sounds, tastes and smells. So much so, that I find it hard to remember precisely what we ate, what we did, and what we saw without the aid of my 458 photos.
The food is best recalled through the pages of the fantastic cookbook I picked up at a used book store in Delhi. Madhur Jaffrey wrote "Invitation to Indian Cooking" in 1973, making her one of the first authors to introduce Indian cooking to America, while addressing the important differences between Indian and American kitchens. The book is full of interesting tidbits, like how the size of the chickens, the freshness of the spices or the age of the okra can affect the outcome of your recipe.
Today's recipe is adapted from Jaffrey's okra with onions and tandoori chicken recipes. The okra is simmered in a richly seasoned paste of onions, ginger and garlic, while the shrimp lounges in a creamy marinade of yogurt, spices and lemon juice. This is a full feast best saved for a weekend night, when you can break out the cool dishes, light some candles, and savor some Indian food that blows the local curry joint out of the water.
Okra and Tandoori Shrimp
Yield: Serves 4-6
Prep Time: 30 min Cook Time: 1 hour Total Time: 1 hour 30 min
For the shrimp:
1 lb / 450 g large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 cup / 235 mL plain yogurt
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp freshly ground cumin
1 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
1/2 tsp salt
3 Tbs lemon juice
For the okra:
4 medium onions, peeled and coarsely chopped
5 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
2" piece of fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
4 Tbs grapeseed or other cooking oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 Tbs ground coriander
4 Tbs tomato sauce
1 lb fresh young okra
1 tsp salt
2 tsp garam masala
2 Tbs lemon juice
For the rice:
8 oz / 225 g basmati rice, rinsed
2 cups / 470 mL water
pinch of salt
Begin by marinating the shrimp: Combine all of the shrimp marinade ingredients, add the shrimp, and refrigerate while you work on the rest of the dish. Preheat oven to 450F / 230C so you're ready to cook the shrimp later.
Start the okra: Put onion, garlic and ginger in a food processor along with about 1/4 cup water and blend til smooth.
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add cumin and fennel seeds and cook for about 30 seconds. Add the onion mixture and the turmeric and stir to combine. Cook for about 20 minutes, stirring every few minutes. The paste will reduce and darken.
Cut the okra into 3/4" lengths while the onion paste cooks.
Add the coriander and tomato sauce to the skillet and cook for another minute. Add the okra, salt, garam masala, lemon juice, and about 1/4 cup water. Stir to combine.
Cover the skillet and turn the heat to low. Cook for about 35 minutes, stirring occasionally, til okra is tender.
Meanwhile, make the rice: Bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add rice and salt, cover, and reduce heat to low. Cook 15 minutes, then turn off heat, leaving cover on. Do NOT stir.
While rice is steaming, cook the shrimp: Remove shrimp from marinade and pat dry. Line a baking sheet with tinfoil and arrange the shrimp in a single layer. Cook for 8-10 minutes, til, shrimp are firm and curled. Removed from oven.
To serve, put the okra, shrimp and rice in separate bowls and garnish with a bit of cilantro. Raita, chutney and hot sauce all make great accompaniments.